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Saskatchewan First Nation Businesses Leading In Their Fields

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      WINTER 1997      v27 n04 p12  
CANDO Award
Top: 1997 CANDO Award
Bottom: Chief Harry Cook La Lac Ronge Indian Band
Chief Harry Cook

The recently released demographics publication entitled Saskatchewan and Aboriginal Peoples in the 21st Century calls for an increase in the number of Aboriginal-owned businesses and joint ventures. These businesses create employment and positively impact the provincial economy.

In Saskatchewan, a number of First Nation-owned businesses are proving their corporate acumen. As leaders in their fields, the Kitsaki Development Corporation and the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority were both recently honoured by their peers.

On September 26, 1997 the Kitsaki Development Corporation (KDC) received the Developer of the Year Award at the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers (CANDO) conference in Montreal. The award was voted on by CANDO delegates. KDC was up against three other development corporations.

The recently released demographics publication entitled Saskatchewan and Aboriginal Peoples in the 21st Century calls from Manitoba and British Columbia.

KDC is owned by the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, Saskatchewan's largest First Nation with a current membership of 6,451. The Band incorporated KDC in 1981. At the time, says La Ronge Chief Harry Cook, they were looking to "identify, examine and explore" the opportunities available in northern Saskatchewan. "We wanted to look at our own region and find out how we could benefit over the long-term," he said.

The Band identified key sectors of northern industry including mining, property ownership, forestry, tourism and transportation. Over the years a dozen businesses have been developed for an increase in the number of Aboriginal-owned businesses and in these sectors including Northern Resources Trucking, Keewatin Mining Corporation and Northern Lights Wild Rice Inc. "We wish to benefit from the numerous business opportunities in northern Saskatchewan," says Chief Cook.


Saskatchewan First Nation Businesses Leading In Their Fields

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      WINTER 1997      v27 n04 p13  
With a proven track record, KDC is headed for the future. "We are looking at developing jobs, wealth and educating our people," says Chief Cook. KDC is currently negotiating the terms of two different projects.

The motivating factor in these ventures is revenue potential. Chief Cook says, "We research for profitability and sustainability in the long-term."

It is initiatives the strength of these that led to the CANDO award. Chief Cook calls the award "very significant" in that it demonstrates KDC can successfully compete with development corporations on a national scale.

The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) was also recently recognized for its success. SIGA received the prestigeous ABEX award for a new venture from the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce. Vance McNab, Vice-President of Marketing at SIGA, calls the award significant. "We were judged by our peers," he says.

The award was presented at a dinner held at the Saskatoon Centennial Auditorium. SIGA was selected as the New Venture recipients out of a field of five nominees from across Saskatchewan.

SIGA was established in 1995 following the signing of the First Nations Gaming Act between the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) and the provincial government. "Since its creation, says McNab,."The four casinos of Prince Albert, North Battleford, Yorkton and the Whitebear First Nation, have created over 700 jobs with an estimated 150 additional jobs created in ancillary operations such as the restaurants. On average, more than 80 percent of these positions are filled by employees with First Nations ancestry.

The casinos are also performing better than expected in terms of revenues. SIGA anticipates that gross revenues will exceed $35 million for the year ending March 31, 1998. This translates to better futures for Saskatchewan First Nations as the recipients of the net revenues.

Organizations such as KDC and SIGA are setting the standard for First Nations economic development in Saskatchewan. Chief Cook thinks they are setting positive role models for other First Nations. He says, "It is very important that Indian people get involved this way." Chief Cook believes that true self-government will come when First Nations can take care of themselves financially.

SIGA CEO Cutch Lerat accepting ABEX
SIGA CEO Dutch Lerat accepting ABEX